Further Evidence Of A Small, Painful Step

A loss is a loss any way you slice and for the Raptors to once again come so agonizingly close against a tough opponent in the Memphis Grizzlies doesn’t exactly take the sting out of it.

But in a season where we’ve heard so much about culture change, learning and development, a growing sample size suggests that a small step in a painful process appears to have been taken.

It’s just not one that’s registered in that ultimate metric of wins and losses.

Go back to mid-January and things were downright excruciating. Forget unsuccessful, this team was borderline unwatchable during the remainder of the month and into February — culminating with a humiliating 36-point loss to the Celtics in Boston.

They’ve won just four of 13 games since, but by an average of just 4.4 points in those nine defeats. Stumbles in winnable games against the Bucks and Bobcats, to be sure, but they’ve proven to be a handful for contenders in the Heat and Spurs, while playoff-bound squads in the Knicks and Lakers needed buzzer-beating heroics to escape Toronto with a win.

The persistent voice in my head through the last 30 days has been assistant coach Johnny Davis, who spoke to me way back in September about when he saw his former charges with the Grizzlies really turn the corner, break through and start winning consistently.

“The players started to really gain confidence in what we were doing with our process and our philosophy and then we started to understand how to close a game out, how to finish a game, to sort of run through the finish line,” said Davis. “Once they did that and started understanding it, they took off.”

Not exactly an easy buy-in after you see Jose Calderon’s late three-point attempt draw back iron on Friday, which is probably what made our #RTZ Tweet of the Night winner @RapsFanMike stand out that much more…

The Raptors return to practice Saturday afternoon, as they prepare to open a back-to-back on Sunday evening against the Warriors at ACC (6PM, Sportsnet One, FAN590).

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